Feeling and Thinking of Others: Affective and Cognitive Empathy and Emotion Comprehension in Prosocial/Hostile Preschoolers

Carmen Belacchi & Eleonora Farina
Wiley Online

This study aims at investigating the affective and cognitive components of empathy in relation to both emotion comprehension and prosocial/hostile behaviors in preschoolers.

A total of 219 children (54% boys; aged between 3 and 6: mean age 4.10) and 20 teachers (two for each class: group A and group B) took part in this research. Pupils’ empathy and hostile/prosocial roles were assessed by teacher reports [Belacchi and Farina, 2010] and children’s emotion comprehension by a nonverbal test [Test of Emotion Comprehension: Pons and Harris, 2000; adapted by Albanese and Molina; 2008].

As expected, the results showed a significant influence of gender, with girls being more empathic than boys, according to all of the teachers’ perception.

Contrary to our expectations, no systematic age influence emerged. Regarding the relations of children’s emotion comprehension with both empathy measures and their prosocial/hostile attitudes, we have found: (1) a low significant relation with the total empathy measure, according to all the teachers, but with the cognitive empathy only according to teachers B; (2) a robust negative relationship of both affective and cognitive empathy with Hostile roles and with Outsider role, contrary to a positive correlation of only affective empathy with Prosocial roles.

No relationships emerged between empathy measures and Victim role.

Read More: Feeling and Thinking of Others: Affective and Cognitive Empathy and Emotion Comprehension in Prosocial/Hostile Preschoolers

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